Friday, August 29, 2008
JFK DEJA VU
It’s all about the eyes. I was 14 years old when JFK took the oath of office as president of the United States. I remember watching the inauguration on that cold January day. I looked with the wonder of youth at a man who spoke words that stirred a deep seated desire to achieve something great. Many who listened to him talk had a look in their eyes, a mesmerizing look that one could take for hero worship.
I remember listening to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Again, you could see that look in everyone’s eyes as the promise of a new future sparked our own personal dreams to create a life and a nation of great accomplishment. When I was a senior in high school a couple us skipped school to march with Dr. King against school desegregation in Boston. For one brief moment I locked arms with Dr. King and once again, the eyes of thousands, and my own, held the look of promise.
I listened to Obama’s acceptance speech. I was grateful for the news teams that took the time to get close up personal expressions of those that were in attendance. Once again, there was that look. At first it could be taken for idol worship, and for some, that was probably the case. But there was more hidden within those eyes. There was an expression of a child upon seeing colorful and bountiful presents under a brightly lit Christmas tree; the look of a parent upon seeing their newborn child for the first time; the look of a man or woman when love takes hold of the heart. It was not just the eyes of worshipers; it was the look of “awakening,” the inner spirit coming to life because someone hit a key note that jogged their long fogged and cluttered mind. The eyes said, “I remember why I am here. I remember that there is more to life than a home in the suburbs, a two car garage and a never ending life was useless consumption.” It was not a look of fear, but a look of hope. The eyes were asking, “Could this be the time, the moment when we will truly create a life of peace and brotherhood for all?”
When watching the JFK inaugural, I remember seeing a young charismatic man standing with a more elderly companion, LBJ. When watching Obama I saw the same image as he stood with Senator Biden. I remember Kennedy telling us that it was up to us, the people, to decide the future of our nation. “Ask not what your country (your government) can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” He put the future in our hands and let it be known that we are responsible for form, shape, temper and values of the nation. Obama said that the election was not about him, it was about us. What do we, as a people want? What kind of future will we create? What kind of world do we want ourselves and our children to live in? “Change does not come from Washington, change goes to Washington.” We are responsible.
It is said that we are at a time of either a great awakening or great disaster. Too much is going on in the world to think that we can continue to live a life of ‘business as usual.” Does Obama represent that change? Would his election proclaim to ourselves and the world that Americans have finally reconciled its bi-polar disorder? Would is show us that we have finally taken the theory “that all men are created equal” and are ready to now put that theory into practice? Would his election show that we have erased the notion of color from our politics and that we are ready and willing to embrace all those who share our dreams, hopes and desires?
I will admit to a fear. In American politics, those with vision tend to stoke the fire, but not partake of its warmth. Martin Luther king knew this. He knew he would get to the Promised Land but not enter it. In my age of hope and rebellion, the 60’s and 70’s, we lost our heroes to hatred, bigotry and blindness. The look that was in our eyes turned to pools of water. Dare I rekindle that forgotten fervor? Are we finally ready to create that new Promised Land? I know we create our own reality. Are we, as a people, ready? “If not now, when; if not us, who?” In the wise words of a Hopi elder, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”